- - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

KENYA

Pirates may face trial in United States

NAIROBI | The 15 Somali pirates detained after the killing of four American yacht enthusiasts could face trial in the United States, a military spokesman said Wednesday.

The military, FBI and Justice Department are working to figure out the next steps for the pirates, said Bob Prucha, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. The 15 are being held on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, which is in waters off East Africa.

A pirate aboard the hijacked yacht, Quest, on Tuesday fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. warship that had responded to the hijacking. Then gunfire broke out aboard the yacht. When Navy Special Forces reached the yacht, they found the four American hostages fatally shot.

SOUTH AFRICA

Budget offers tax cuts, more help for poor

JOHANNESBURG | South Africa will spend more to help the poor while offering tax relief and other pro-business steps in a country where nearly a quarter of the population is unemployed, the finance minister said Wednesday.

In presenting the budget of Africa’s most important economy to the parliament in Cape Town, Pravin Gordhan said he was following up on pledges President Jacob Zuma made in his State of the Nation speech two weeks ago to focus on fighting poverty and creating jobs. Overall, spending for 2011-12 is up 9.8 percent from last year’s budget. The largest share of spending, about 20 percent, is slated for education, while about 3 percent is budgeted for defense.

SOMALIA

Troops attack al Qaeda-linked rebels

MOGADISHU | Somali government forces backed by African Union troops on Wednesday launched a fresh offensive against al Qaeda-linked rebels, claiming forays into parts of Mogadishu long held by the militants.

The weak Western-backed transitional federal government said its forces captured a building used as a base by the Shebab rebels, a claim the Islamist insurgents promptly denied.

“Our national army crushed the enemy in several areas, including the defense ministry building and in the Shirkole neighborhood,” Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed told reporters in the Somali capital. “We are going to continue fighting until we eliminate the Shebab threat from the country.”

IVORY COAST

10 police die in fight over election

ABIDJAN | A battle between forces for the country’s two political rivals involving rocket-propelled grenades left at least 10 policemen dead, an official said Wednesday after some of the heaviest fighting since the disputed election three months ago.

Witnesses in the volatile Abobo district of Abidjan described hours of heavy machine-gun fire and grenade explosions on Tuesday. At least two civilians also were believed to have been killed.

The death toll could not be confirmed immediately, but one official said at least 10 officers were dead. A senior adviser to the internationally recognized winner, Alassane Ouattara, said at least 30 troops were killed, while another employee of the mayor’s office in Abobo put the death toll at 40.

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